On Tuesday 21 April, my friend and former colleague TK Mcopele of TK of Africa Change Convenor held an important conversation on Instagram Live titled “Jobs and Career Planning now and in the future”. TK was joined by the phenomenal Eva Gush, who also happens to be a former colleague of mine. Both ladies are passionate about bringing about change in society and paying it forward. The topic being discussed could not have been more relevant under these unprecedented times we are living in. 

Having extensive experience in identifying and nurturing talent, Eva boasts over 20 years of experience in HR at various financial institutions including Merrill Lynch, Barclays and Absa, Eva now runs her own career and coaching services firm.

 

TK is an International Analyst at Absa’s Investment Bank division and has also founded her own company in which she provides corporate and events conversation services.

The discussion touched on everything, in particular within the context of the impending fourth industrial revolution. With previous fears around automation replacing “human capital”, such fears have undoubtedly been heightened as the Coronavirus has expedited the pace at which automation will most likely take place. With this in mind Eva and TK unpacked a range of topics including what job seekers should be looking out for in the job market, how to keep yourself relevant in your current role, critical skills for the future, the gig economy and what it means to take up space as a woman in the corporate environment. If you missed the conversation, fear not, we will be sharing some highlights from that conversation below. 

Looking to make a career change or currently in the job market:

If you are looking to make a pivot in your career, whether it is outside of your current organisation, switching departments or a move outside of your field, the starting point should always be to identify what your strengths are and lead with those. Focusing on what you are naturally good at will help you thrive. Self-awareness is therefore so important. Take the time to assess if the values and culture of your current organisation or the organisation you wish to join are in line with your own. It is important to do your research and consider what your options are in order to make the desired change in your career, e.g. if you want to move within your current organisation you must understand what the internal processes are and where your strengths will be best utilised. Regardless of what your plans may be, proactivity and planning are crucial to carve your way out into the role most suited for you. It is also important to manage your expectations, specifically in terms of timelines, the results may not necessarily be immediate. 

Remaining relevant in your current role:

If you are concerned that your company may be gearing up for retrenchments after this confinement period ends, Eva shared some advice on how to keep yourself relevant. Eva advised that remaining focused and consistent delivery of high quality work  may help you avoid retrenchment. If you are indeed concerned that your role may be made redundant, reach out and have an honest conversation with your manager. By showing vulnerability this may create an opportunity to help you understand the situation from your manager’s perspective. Lifelong learning and constant upskilling throughout your career will keep you relevant in the market regardless of industry. If you have taken up courses to upskill yourself in the past but have not been able to use your new skills in your current role, find examples in your day to day responsibilities that may be linked to that training e.g. managing people to show your managers the ways in which you have been adding value. 

Critical skills for right now:

When asked about what skills employers will be looking for going forward, Eva recommended the following skills and constantly working towards this will help differentiate you from the competition:

    • Soft skills / interpersonal skills are going to be so important e.g. emotional intelligence which tech and robots can never have 
    • Resilience – Be able to show examples of where you have been knocked down but get up and what you were able to learn from that experience 
    • Flexibility and adaptability – It will become increasingly important for employees being open to different kinds of work, different methods of getting the job done etc. 
    • Creativity and critical thinking – The ability to create new ideas, how to do things differently, questioning ways to do things better 
    • Entrepreneurial skills – There will be less and less traditional corporate jobs 
    • Intrapreneurial skills – Linked to creativity and critical thinking, developing ways to add value within your current role/organisation

Being a lifelong student does not always have to be in the strict academic sense e.g. a Masters or PhD, it could be through constantly upskilling yourself through courses and training offered within your organisation or even online.  If you do decide to go the traditional academic route and pursue a Masters or PhD this can indeed give you an advantage because it shows you possess the resilience it takes to successfully complete them.

Taking the plunge and applying for that new job: 

Eva advised that your personal brand is so important, people will look at your LinkedIn profile before they even have a conversation with you, it is therefore super important to keep your profile updated. The old ways of job searching are not going to land you a job i.e. sending the same CV and cover letter to 20 different companies. You need to know how to sell yourself. Eva advises the following:

  • Customise your application to each company you are applying to – 
  • Your intro email/cover letter needs to have something personal to the company you are applying to showing them how you can add value and why you would be a good fit for the company
  • Your application needs to have the keywords for the job description or else the recruiting software will throw out your CV
  • Look at the job description and roles that are similar to that job, to find the keywords that you should incorporate into your application
  • When selling your soft skills prepare a story/example around your core skill and newly acquired skills to crystalize the skill in the mind of the recruiter 
  • Never talk about money in the beginning of the interview process, you only want to talk about money further into the process when you can sense that the company is moving towards the direction of “this is the person we want”
  • From a salary perspective, do your research and see what the market standard is so that when you do enter into salary negotiations you are speaking from a place of facts.

Gig Economy: 

With COVID 19 people are going to have to become more creative in terms of how they generate income. Looking at SA with its high unemployment rate, Eva agreed that it is beneficial to get into the gig economy and into freelancing activities. By starting small this will help you build up a repertoire of new skills through learning and exposure. If this is an avenue you would like to pursue full-time, you have to be clear about your “Why” upfront. Preparation and planning is key, specifically financial planning because there are no company benefits in order to cover medical aid, retirement savings, etc. you have to factor all those things in for yourself. You have to be purposeful in how you go about it and how you allocate your time because you will be sacrificing a lot of your time, finances, etc. Having a vision, self-awareness and a long term plan must be top of mind because that will help you stick it through and persevere. 

Taking up space:

We all watched with pride as Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi sent out an impassioned plea for all women who have been overlooked to take up space. In as much as the winds of change have been steadily blowing, taking up space in male-dominated spaces remains a challenge. We are all familiar with the misogynistic labels assertive women are too often subjected to. Eva advises that regardless of industry, the manner in which you show your assertiveness matters, we must all  have wisdom in how we apply our assertiveness. Emotional intelligence is important in order to be able to read people, some people will be more receptive to your assertiveness than others. Some people are prickly and you may not know what is driving their agendas. Unfortunately there will always be people that are just difficult, it may not be worth getting into an argument or proving your point with them, there are people who just love to argue or be disruptive and it may be a waste of energy to spend more time with those people. Very politely exit the conversation. Be purposeful about about the battles you choose to take part in.

This is a conversation we will most likely be returning to as we begin to see the impact of COVID 19 unfold. Share your perspective on your experiences with us in the comments below.

It goes without saying that the last few weeks have left the globe reeling with an unprecedented wave of anxiety given the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is almost serendipitous that as we all try to adjust to life under the lockdown or confinement measures, the month of April also happens to be Stress Awareness Month. 

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992. During this annual thirty day period, health care professionals and health promotion experts across the globe join forces to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for managing stress in these modern times.

What is stress?

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, stress was a frightening reality for many people as they battled various issues such as growing unemployment, family conflict, and personal illness. Not to mention the added stress that comes from social media. There are various factors in our day to day lives that can cause or trigger stress. Stress can be triggered by many things including work, deadlines, finances, traffic, and relationship issues. Stress is a natural reaction, as the body tries to deal with any negative pressures placed on it. In some instances, stress can actually be useful when dealing with high-pressured, demanding situations, e.g. it can help us perform optimally for big transaction negotiations or trial preparation. 

Stress can become a problem when these pressures become overwhelming, and in some cases, can be a precursor to more serious anxiety disorders and even depression. Some indicators of stress may include:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in eating habits
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Unhealthy eating 

How to manage stress 

Undoubtedly given the current global health crisis stress levels are at an all-time high for many. The good news is stress can be managed through the use of various stress management techniques that equip you with the tools to handle stress triggers and stressful situations in a structured way. Techniques to help you manage stress in general, as well as COVID-19 stress, include the following:

  1. Avoid, or at least reduce, your consumption of nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase your level of stress rather than reduce it. Instead, challenge yourself to drink more water – your body and your skin will thank you for it.
  2. Take part in physical activity as part of your daily routine. There are so many options be it working out at the gym, running, talking a walk or doing a dance class. While we observe lockdown there are plenty of online workouts to help you stay in shape in the comfort of your own home. Check out some of the best home workouts here.
  3. Get more sleep. Try to aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.
  4. Talk to someone. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective. Just by virtue of the times we live in, everybody is encouraged to see a therapist, particularly people of color as we often carry generational trauma.
  5. Start a journaling practice. Writing about stressful or emotional events has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological health. 
  6. Spend an hour doing something you love. The lockdown conditions have presented opportunities to spend time doing the things we love such as reading, cooking, listening to music, spending more time with our children. Whatever it may be, you can also carry that practice into your daily life even when the confinement restrictions have been relaxed.

Do not hesitate to seek professional help 

It is no secret that building a career within the legal profession is and can be a very stressful journey. Studies show that the suicide rate amongst lawyers is rising.  If you, or someone that you know, have been struggling with stress over a long period of time and feel overwhelmed we recommend getting some professional help. 

Here are some useful links.

Best Online Therapy Programs of 2020

South African Depression and Anxiety Group 

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

NHS Suicidal Thoughts Help Site 

The greatest weapon against our stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” 

 – William James 

We have spoken to some of you that have asked us to look at the topic of fashion for lawyers. We heard you and asked for help from Belinda Namata Kintu, an admitted lawyer with experience in Banking and Finance law, in particular Project Finance both in-house and in practice. She is also the editor of the lifestyle and fashion blog The Black Diamond Series and is currently based in the fashion capital of the world; Paris completing an MBA at the ISC Paris Business School in France, to give us some basic principles. In typical multi-hyphenate millennial fashion, Belinda is an avid yoga practitioner having completed 200 hour teacher training.

 

Fashion for lawyers is an aspect of our jobs that has often been misconstrued and highly glamourised. The image of how lawyers should dress has often fallen into the cliché of which ever TV show was popular at the time. Everything from the sexy power outfits worn by Jessica Pearson from Suits to the scandalously short skirts from the Ally McBeal days (young millennials you will have to Google who that is).Also no one dresses like Elle Woods in a law firm.

Every lawyer needs to have the classic ‘penguin’ suit. A solid black pair of heels is also essential. **Photo not supplied or affiliated by Hugo Boss

Whether you have worked at Big Law or In-house, being part of the profession, we all know that Hollywood sold us a pack of lies and how to dress as an attorney depends on various factors such as the culture of the firm and the industry in which you practice. Having recently moved to a new country, I have also learned that “professional wear” is also subject to the culture of the city or country as well.

Whether we choose to accept it or not, how we look often creates perceptions about who we are long before we even open our mouths to speak. Like with most things there is always far more scrutiny placed on women and how we dress in the workplace compared to our male counterparts. This is even more heightened in the legal fraternity, however, that is a topic for another day.

 

A nude pair of heels and a good bag are also important staple pieces whether you are in the office, or in court.

Striking a balance between all the cultural nuances of where you work and still staying true to your authentic self can be tricky. Having been in practice and in-house I learned a few style hacks that allowed me to fit in with the culture of the firm and still showcase my own style and personality. Whether you are the girl who looks like she is fresh off the pages of Vogue magazine or you prefer a much simpler aesthetic having a few staple pieces in your closet makes all the difference. Forget what you have been told, there will never be a new black. Black will always be black. Black will always be classic and timeless. Using black as a base will always give any outfit a clean, sophisticated look. You can always add pops of colour or bold accessories to your staple pieces to give your look a little bit of personality.

You cannot go wrong with an all black look.

Whatever your style may be, the key is to remain comfortable, be true to yourself and to have fun with your look.

XO, Belinda.

 

 

Hello 2019!

Rather than kicking off the year with a list of resolutions, I would rather begin with reflections on things I learned in 2018. I want to learn from the L’s (losses) and turn them into Wins and eventually Millions.

 

1. Reference Letters

When we went to University, the only instructions many of us were told were “get good grades, so you can get a good job.” Thats exactly what I did, I got my good grades and thought after walking across the graduation stage, I wouldn’t ever need to see those lecturers again.

Until… I decided I wanted to go to Graduate School and apply for Academic Fellowships. Most of the applications required a reference letter from someone who knows your academic work. My mouth went dry, and stomach was twisting as I racked my mind thinking of who I could approach.

 

5 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT ADULTING IN 2018

Hello 2019!

Rather than kicking off the year with a list of resolutions, I would rather begin with reflections on things I learned in 2018. I want to learn from the L’s (losses) and turn them into Wins and eventually Millions.

1. Reference Letters

When we went to University, the only instructions many of us were told were “get good grades, so you can get a good job.” Thats exactly what I did, I got my good grades and thought after walking across the graduation stage, I wouldn’t ever need to see those lecturers again.

Until… I decided I wanted to go to Graduate School and apply for Academic Fellowships. Most of the applications required a reference letter from someone who knows your academic work. My mouth went dry, and stomach was twisting as I racked my mind thinking of who I could approach.

If you, similarly to me, experienced this rude awakening and didn’t get the cheat code to make friends with your lecturers- don’t panic. Make sure you build relationships with your seniors and clients where you are right now to ensure you can get a solid reference letter in future.

2. LSAC!

If you are applying to a law school in the USA, get ready for the torture of LSAC. This is the Law School Admissions Council and they collate applications to 95% of the law schools in the USA. You need to give at least 3 months and at least $400 for your law school application to make it to its intended destination.

LSAC has centralized applications to law schools so, unless you apply to Harvard Law School or Cornell Tech, you will have to go through LSAC. The whole system is horrible and confusing- read the fine print or you will miss your application deadlines like I have.

3. Have A Plan B Country

As I have been speaking to my friends in South Africa and Zimbabwe,  I have learned that a number of them are working on a plan to leave their respective countries to seek better economic opportunities. Perhaps I am too ideological and I have sipped too much of the the “Africa is Rising” juice that I am too drunk to read the signs with my sepia coloured lenses.

Apparently to have access to the best resources and opportunities, you need to get rid of or supplement your green passport. I have started to browse through some countries, but to be honest I love living in South Africa. As a professional you get to live a first world lifestyle at third world prices. I am not really thinking of leaving South Africa for any time beyond 5 years to gain international exposure.

As a legal professional it may not be so easy to just pack up and go to another legal system. I think you would have to move to a country that is prominent in your practice area. Eg if you practiced mining law or construction, then a move to Australia or Canada may be more feasible.

4. Gym Is A Scam

Your favourite gyms don’t want you to show up. They just want you to sign on the dotted line and permit the debit order. They know in January you are all kinds of hype, but by March they know your commitment to after work drinks and Netflix will take over, leaving them with your cash in their hands.

According to The Hustle newsletter, “the nation’s largest gym chains often sign up20x the number of people who can actually fit in a given location. They are well aware that most won’t show up. AsPlanet Moneyreported, one Planet Fitness branch in NYC had a max capacity of about 300, but boasted more than6k members.”

Rather than falling into the vicious cycle, avoid it completely and explore new ways of working out. Set up a mini gym in your home with a yoga mat, a set of weights, resistance bands, a pull up bar and medicine ball. If you want to socialise, you can join a running club or take part in the weekend Parkruns. I have set up my small home gym and watch Popsugar on Youtube for workout routines.

5. Travel

Don’t just travel to take bikini pics, but rather to incorporate your work with play. When you are going to new destination, try to connect with local entrepreneurs or lawyers in that area so that you can exchange ideas and grow the network because you never know when you will need to refer a matter in Bolivia!

Meet people through co working spaces like WeWork, which has offices in every major city on each continent (except Africa). Send the desired office an email and explain you are visiting that city so you want to work there for a day and they could let you do so for free 🙂

Ps: Find out beforehand if you need a yellow fever shot for travel to some countries out there. I almost missed a trip to Lagos because of this!

There is still so much I am learning about being an adult like money management, growing a property portfolio, food combining, choosing a life partner and so much more. I am sure you know something I don’t, so please share it below.

A recent discussion between Hollywood actresses Gabrielle Union, Ellen Pompeo, Gina Rodriguez and Emma Roberts on Net-a-Porter’s platform showed the inequality in pay between men and women, and also between women of different races.

It is well documented that Ellen Pompeo earns at least $20 million a year for her work in Greys Anatomy, making her one of the highest paid TV actresses. In the conversation she said her negotiation was based on the value that her “face” has brought the show for over 12 years. The show has made a revenue of almost $3.2 billion since it started and she wanted a part of that.

Gabrielle Union explained that she was not aware how much white actresses were not only asking for- but also receiving, and that it had never occurred to her to ask for those kind of figures because Hollywood discourages the discussion of salaries. Rodriguez added that a woman of latino decent, she was simply happy to be in the room, so she wouldn’t want to seem ungrateful by asking for more, which could lead to losing the opportunity to work.

In most workplaces right now, its time to negotiate salary increases and bonus payout season. Its time for people to find out about promotions from Candidate Attorney to Associate, or Associate to Senior Associate, or most coveted title of Partner.
Similar to Hollywood most workplaces discourage or even prohibit the comparison of salaries between employees. I have often wondered why this rule exists, who does it protect?
Here are 5 things to consider as you go into your salary increase negotiations:
1. Dismiss the Tiara Syndrome
I first heard of the Tiara Syndrome in Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In”, but the phrase was coined by Carol Frohlinger  who said “Women expect that if they keep doing their job well someone will notice them and place a tiara on their head. That never happens.”
Doing good work and being diligent is extremely important,that’s what keeps you in the game.  You also need to have a career strategy to get to the next level. This could include studying further, networking, getting a mentor to guide you, etc- because good things do not come to those who wait in the corporate world.
“Do not wait for power to be offered. Like that Tiara it may never materialise.” says Sandberg.
2. Know The Numbers
It is important for you to know how much your team has made in the past and current financial year, as well as your contribution to that bottom line. This may be easier to do in a law firm, but if you work in a company, it may be a little harder to do because legal services may not generate fees towards the bottom line.
Perhaps you can look at the number of transactions you advised on that closed and their value to the company, as well as the amount of money you saved on the legal budget by doing things yourself or keeping tight reigns on external legal advisors.
This ensures that your request in rooted in reality and shows the superiors that you have done your homework.
3. Whats Worth More Than Money? 
Determine what is worth more than money for you and ask for that.
If you want to work more flexi-hours – then ask for 2 days working remotely and 3 days working in the office. If you want to study a short course, ask the company to pay for it without any conditions- like paying back the money.
Ask for something that will add to your happiness bottom line, in a way that money can’t fulfill.
4. Compare and Contrast

Yes, talk to others in the company and in similar positions elsewhere about what they earn.
Money is a sensitive topic, so rather look at it as certificates of completion! If you are doing the same work as another person, don’t want to know that you are being equally valued?
 It starts with you being brave enough to talk to your colleagues about it. Its important to also note that you must not attack your colleagues who earn more. The problem is with the system that rewards people unfairly, so focus your frustration towards towards challenging the status quo and make your colleagues your ally.
The money you earn is not a reflection of your value and worth, it is what someone else has priced you at- so, do not take it too seriously. Focus on your internal worth and work on ways that will eventually allow you to price yourself.
5. You Belong Here
You have your qualifications. You got the job. You show up everyday and give your best. You belong here! You have put in the work to earn the title, so pull up the seat at the table. When you get ready for the negotiations, you are not asking for a favour, you have demonstrated your capabilities.
Always be grateful and never take any opportunity for granted, but not to the detriment of your well being – physically, emotionally or financially. Perhaps you have run your course in the organisation, but you always belong in the profession as a legal professional! Own your space.
Talking about money is not easy, but money is such an important part of our livelihood. We need better tools to have the confidence to approach the topic, and I trust that these 5 points to consider will make the discussion easier and leave you with more money in the bank!
Is there anything else that you do when negotiating your salary increase?

 

The Concept:
After conducting the Werk Crush Wednesday interviews I realised that women did not have a plan around how to network intentionally. In the legal profession, women of colour have challenges with finding clients and building big practices, and without networking platforms- its going to remain difficult. I decided that I wanted to create an event to promote networking and to allow for natural mentorship to occur, as legal professionals.  This led to the birth of The Legal Werk Brunch!
 
The Speakers
Our speakers were incredible, from the Legal Advisor of the President of the Republic of South Africa- Advocate Nokukhanya Jele sharing us about her work, style and journey. We also had Akunna Onwu and Vennduke Chigumba sharing about the value of coaching and creating a personal brand respectively. It was important for the speakers to highlight how lawyers can be autonomous and create their own brand while being part of a large firm and in the larger legal industry.

From a poster to in person

All our speakers were  phenomenal and were relatable, speaking  in a way that is genuine, empathetic and shared a lot from their personal experiences. Listening Advocate Jele her talking about her work- how Oliver Reginald Tambo was the first to suggest that she should become a lawyer- because she was an argumentative child, tp how she flunked out of university in France and worked as an administrator in a financial institution for the rest of the year. She then moved to New York to complete her studies in Political Science, which she then crowned with an LLM. (She did her LLB after obtaining her LLM)
She shared about feeling that she didn’t fit into the South African landscape as a mixed race child in apartheid and how she found belonging by going door to door conducting a research study in some of the poorest areas of Cape Town as an intern. She shared the gems of wisdom she received from Constitutional Court Chief Justice Pius Langa – who she clerked for- and how his humble wisdom and excellence still guides her to this day. She reenacted her sleepy voice  when she received a call from President Cyril Ramaphosa! (See the video on our Instagram)
She cautioned the younger legal professionals to be patient with our journeys- as things rarely make sense in the moment- but to keep doing what we need to do, until we can do what we want to do!
 I took her through some of the questions we ask our Werk Crush Wednesday and her response to a bad recommendation about law- was that she wishes clients would have a lawyer present from Day 1, as opposed to waiting until Day 78. “If a lawyer is in the room on Day 1, chances are- you won’t get to to Day 78.” Isn’t so true?!
When she is stressed or overwhelmed, in a meeting, she will start to write her thoughts to collect herself and do her best to keep a straight face. She also writes herself lots of little notes including this quote from the poem ‘Fleurs du mal’ by Charles Baudelaire which says “La, tout n’est qu’ordre et beaute, luxe, calme et volupte.” (There is all order and beauty, luxury, peace and pleasure). Her closet staples are a good pair of flats and although she doesnt wear make up- she is part of the Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb squad!

Pensive, yet attentive and so patient.

The Guests
Our attendees ranged from high school students, law students, legal advisors in bank and corporates, lawyers who run their firms, lawyers in big law firms to advocates.

Grade 12’s from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls

Sponsors:

A big thank you to our sponsors from Hogan Lovells who provided an amazing venue and PPS who sponsored the food. I want to make a special thank you to some partners at Hogan Lovells who also made a cash contribution towards the day!

Hogan Lovells Terrace

 

The Netwerk:

Out of the Legal Werk, we have decided to birth The Netwerk which is primarily focused on meeting the objective above- of creating a platform for women in law to network. I had such goosebumps watching the women be so engaged and offer up opportunities to expose some junior lawyers to other legal fields. Keep in touch for updates about next year events as both The Legal Werk and The Netwerk! The Legal Werk will continue to have industry wide discourses and stay tuned for whats to come next!
Thank you all for coming on the day, engaging and making this day a success!

The Legal Werk

Anthony Ray Hinton was imprisoned for 30 years, on death row,  for a crime he did not commit. He was a poor, black 29 year old man who lived with his mother and 9 siblings in Alabama when he arrested for the murder of 2 men in 1985. In his interview with Oprah Winfrey, he describes his attorney, Bryan Stevenson as “Gods best attorney” for fighting for his freedom for 16 years. This left me thinking, how many clients can honestly say that about their legal representatives?

Its a wonderful coincidence that I found  Mr. Hinton’s interview in the same week I have been listening to  Season 2 of Malcom Gladwells Revisionist History Podcast. Season 2 has spent a lot of focus on race, the civil rights movement and the injustice of the justice system- especially in the South of America. In one sitting I have learned the names of Donald. L. Hollowell, Vernon Jordan and Bryan Stevenson.

Court Gowns Turn into Capes

From the 1960’s Mr Hollowell and Mr Jordan were the notable defense and civil right lawyers who represented black clients. In those days a black accused man or woman would face a white arresting officer, a white prosecutor, a white judge, and all white jury and would have opted for a white pro-Bono attorney – even if they were incompetent, just in a bid a avoid the death penalty. This was not always a fool proof plan as it didn’t work for Nathaniel Johnson- who was sentenced to death by the electric chair for raping and assaulting a white woman. It turns that they were having a relationship and she had told him she was pregnant, thereafter a fight ensued and she used her white privilege to fatally punish her black lover. By the time Mr. Hollowell and Mr. Jordan were on the matter is was too late.Willy Nash was more fortunate, with the help of Mr. Hollowell and Mr. Jordan his false accusations of the murder of a white man and raping his girlfriend were dismissed and he was acquitted.

The matters where Mr Hollowell, Mr Jordan and other black practitioners were heard were often well attended, by black spectators. The reason for this was because, in the court, on that floor- the black lawyer was a person of authority over white witnesses and accused. This was the probably the only place where black people could experience an assertive identity and have a voice that bore weight- even if it wasn’t equal.These weren’t just lawyers trying a case, they were superhero’s and some of Gods Best Attorneys.

Mr. Hinton was on death row for over 28 years. His story of forgiveness, faith, purpose, perseverance is incredible- reminiscent of the legacy of Nelson Mandela. His matter was taken on by Bryan Stevenson who runs the Equal Justice Initiative that provides representation for the forgotten and downtrodden. His clients are people who are wrongly convicted, poor and without decent representation. Mr. Stevenson had been working on his case  for 16 years and on Good Friday of 2015. Mr Hinton was able to walk out of prison and exclaim- his first words as a free man- “The Sun Does Shine” which is also the title of his book.

 

I am a 30 year old attorney. My whole existence is every year Mr. Hinton lost. I think of everything I have been blessed with – my education, career, travel, setbacks, family and relationships – were spent in a death row cell by an innocent man. He has witnessed and smelt the burning flesh of 54 men and 1 woman as they died  in the electric chair. It also opens my own family wound having my uncle hung to death for murder of my mother, 2 brothers and our nanny.

The Future Lies Behind Us
At Lawgistics Legal Consultants, where I am the co-founder our focus is on innovation- “Disrupting the status quo of the law”.I am obsessed with finding technological tools to help us work faster, be more transparent in billing and hiring lawyers with an entrepreneurial mindset. This will help us to scale the business in locations and profit.

My father, my mother, Mr Stevenson, Mr Jordan and Mr Hollowell are some of Gods Best Attorneys from their generations. I decided to keep identifying this talent in my generation and in my own Oprah inspired way to share those stories on The Legal Werk, which is online publication. Providing quality legal services is one part and the other part is the hope, light and life they infuse into their clients and communities. Before you knock hope, remember Barack Obama (who started as an attorney) based his campaign on “Hope” and made history.

 

 

 

I am challenged by my learned colleagues to introduce another metric into our business. Apart from providing quality legal services that are reasonably priced to our clients that are mostly start ups and mid-sized companies. We must aim to also infuse hope, light and life into their dreams so their businesses are in shape to create more jobs, deliver excellent products and services and change the nation. A lot of us in the legal fraternity are waiting for the big tech disruption in the sector- but the future could lie in the past. There is no need to innovate around the principles of justice, fairness, equality, dignity and other principles enshrined in our Constitution.


This is not only relevant to legal professionals who do human rights work, but corporate lawyers, litigators, patent and trademark lawyers- all of us across the spectrum of practices must be challenged
.

Rather than worrying about “will robots take our jobs?”, let us do our jobs with integrity, compassion and excellence. Artificial intelligence cannot be taught to “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed.” This is not only relevant to legal professionals who do human rights work, but corporate lawyers, litigators, patent and trademark lawyers- all of us across the spectrum of practices must be challenged.

There is always going to be work to do for God’s Best Attorneys.

Happy Easter Holidays!
I learnt that we do not have a culture of rest in our society and holidays reveal that for me personally. We live, work and play, burning out and hoping for resuscitation over the holidays. You can’t put your wellness on the line for 350 days and hope that in 2 weeks you can snap back! We need to build a ritual of rest, all successful people have some type of ritual that involves treating their bodies with care, so perhaps this is one you can adopt.
Last year, I started reading “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington, but I stopped because I felt that Arianna was telling people to slow down on work after she had sold her business for $315 million to AOL! I was like “let me do that first and then I will rest!” But this holiday I dusted off my copy of “Thrive” and reread it to find some daily rituals I can practice going into the year!
Here are my top 5 rest rituals I am challenging myself with this year.

1) Quality sleep: 7-8 Hours a night

I learnt that we do not have a culture of rest in our society and holidays reveal that for me personally. We live, work and play, burning out and hoping for resuscitation over the holidays. You can’t put your wellness on the line for 350 days and hope that in 2 weeks you can snap back! We need to build a ritual of rest, all successful people have some type of ritual that involves treating their bodies with care, so perhaps this is one you can adopt.
Last year, I started reading “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington, but I stopped because I felt that Arianna was telling people to slow down on work after she had sold her business for $315 million to AOL! I was like “let me do that first and then I will rest!” But this holiday I dusted off my copy of “Thrive” and reread it to find some daily rituals I can practice going into the year!
Here are my top 5 rest rituals I am challenging myself with this year.

1) Quality sleep: 7-8 Hours a night

As an entrepreneur that works from home, it is very difficult to unplug and go to sleep, especially towards the end of the month. The Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine states, “sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher level cognitive functions: the combination of these factors is what we generally refer to as mental performance.” Therefore, to be smarter, you have to sleep more; not less! In this instance, I encourage that we sleep our way to the top!
Now sleeping isn’t getting into bed and scrolling through time feeds until you fall asleep, you need to completely shut down before you get into the bed and be prepared for sleep.
Here are a few things you can do to cross over into la-la land:
  • Make your bedroom darker (use lamps or candles) and keep it cool;
  • Practice deeper breathing before bed (I’ve tried this, it does work)
  • Banish all LCD screens from the bedroom at night (cellphone- charge it in the lounge and buy an alarm clock, laptops, TV, tablet)
  • Get a nice set of pyjamas, instead of a t-shirt, that will excite you to get into bed.

2) The power nap

f you decide to nap, you are actually in good company with the likes of former US President John F Kennedy, inventor Thomas Edison, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Their naps would vary from 20 minutes to 2 hours and even up to 6 hours! The most bizarre nap I have heard of is that of Salvadore Dali, the artist, who would nap for 1 second! He called it “slumber with a key” where he would sit in a chair, holding a key and place a plate on the floor so that when he fell asleep the key would fall onto the plate and wake him up! Allegedly Albert Einstein did the same, so it may be worth a try! Slumber is the key!
Side note: These are all men, can we take up the challenge of becoming famous women nappers??!!

3) Unplugging

We live in a hyper connected world where we probably know more about whats going on around us than we do whats going on inside us.
I did not think I was addicted to social media until I watched Simon Sinek’s talk on Millennials in the Workplace, which you can see here. A warning, do not watch this video if you aren’t ready to make some changes, I was not ready!
I strongly recommend a 30-day social media hiatus at least once every 6 months.

4) Minimalism

This is a concept I came across recently, so I am also learning! Minimalism is about owning exactly the right things, for you and your needs, and no more than that, so that you then have more time, energy, and resources (including money) to spend on the important stuff.
Stuff costs money and it takes up a lot of space -a lack of both can lead to stress- which does not help to rest! Living with less is not just about getting rid of junk and making extra cash from selling your hoarded items. It is about living with passion and purpose and less about living for things.
I have read about people living with just 50 items and up to 300 items. It’s about frequently asking the question, ” Does this serve a purpose in my life?”

5) Quiet time

Call it whatever you want, meditation or prayer or power hour or stillness. Whatever word you decide to use. We all need at least 5 minutes or an hour to connect with our source of wisdom and power. I personally use this time to read my Bible and pray.
Binge watching series, Netflix, and chill are not resting or recuperating, at best it is escapism. I think implementing each or one of these simple steps on a daily basis will allow us to cultivate a culture of self-care, taking rest daily instead of waiting for the next holidays.
What are some of your tips?

Ok, so Beyonce happened this weekend and apparently so did Coachella! I don’t know who has fully recovered from it because none of my social media feeds have.

That’s the Beyonce effect.

 

She was meant to headline Coachella 2017, but she was pregnant with her twins Rumi and Sir, so she came back this year and blew us all away. The epic dance moves, the live band and bringing out her whole squad! I think there is something we can learn as business-minded women from the event!

1. Let’s get information

 

Education and self development are important for us as women, especially in these days where almost every company/ institution/ government wants to be seen to be progressive by empowering the women in their societies. There are so many free learning opportunities that exist we have to look around us and take advantage of them- especially in tech and business management.
If you can’t find free, look for cheap, but credible courses. We can find Chanel on the low low so lets channel that to finding Harvard learning on a budget. MIT has free online course materials; you won’t get a degree but it does boost your confidence.
Beyonce did an interview looking back at her 2013 halftime show and she said “part of the reason I rehearse so much and part of the reason I study everything is so that I can completely let go and relax, so I am not in my head and I am confident.”
Be like Beyonce and study as much as you can so when opportunities arise, you are confident to put your hand up in that meeting! You should lean all the way in!

2. Let’s see that coordination

I won’t get into the political debate, but I think we need to look at collaboration and coordination within the black community. It’s an open secret that women have challenges working together. I have heard this story endlessly and have been a victim of women on women discrimination.
In her song Formation, Beyonce said, “prove to me you got some coordination.” This reminds of a picture posted by Ava Durvenay of 3 little girls with their afros holding hands. The caption of that picture read, “if there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
I think this challenge of working with other girls comes from the ‘just enough’ mentality we were raised with. In our homes, there were just enough resources and we’ve transferred this mentality to our work. We think there is just enough ‘shine’, that the “enemy” is onto us, so they reserve only 1 spot for us at the 18 seater table, and we all clamour for it. We bought into the narrative that it is a mans world, and we should be grateful to be invited. This can be seen in Hip Hop, with the way we constantly pit Cardi B and Nicki Minaj against each other when they are both talented women who are making great music at the same time.
We don’t have to play by those rules anymore, especially if we play together! Come on, lets twirl on the haters together, it’s better for optics!
And can we get another Destinys Child album?

3. Slay…consistently

 

I think this is pretty self explanatory. Beyonce is a lot of things, but consistency is probably number 2 on the infinite list. She was on hiatus for almost a year, but when she hit that stage, it was like she never left. Be known for your craft and excellence: ” You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making!”.
Beyonce sparked something. We have to keep the flame burning so we can afford tickets to her and Jay-Z’s On The Run Tour 2.
Side note to Beyonce: Africa is a part of the world, so don’t be planning world tours and excluding us! We are not represented by our colonisers in France and Britain. You need to come and check up on it 🙂
That said, I think black girls in Africa should start a petition for Beyonce to bring her tour to Johannesburg. So, now ladies lets get in formation!

*Originally published in She Leads Africa

Earlier today I was minding my business and driving back home and just as I hit the turn to my place, I saw the rear end of Porsche Panamera 4 sticking out of my neighbor’s wall.

After I got over the initial shock, I was like “Yup, that’s an accurate depiction my life”.
Since 2009 I have dreamed of visiting Lagos, Nigeria and every year I passionately talk about it, to a point of breathlessness. In 2017 after I took part in the Mandela Washington Fellowship (“MWF”), my determination hit an all-time high as I got to meet some incredibly smart, fun, talented people from the rest of the continent and I added 10 more countries to my list places I wanted to visit.
In October 2017, I saw the She Leads Africa SLAY Festival would take place on 17 February 2018 in Lagos, Nigeria and I decided that “THIS IS IT”.
I sped off to write the event organizers and put myself up for any type of speaking opportunities that were available and was given the “thank you for getting in touch, we will get back to you.”
But they didn’t know who they were dealing with. I kept idling like a Porsche, waiting to make my move and then it happened!
As I was idle on Instagram I saw an insta-story of a friend/ client and he was with one of the co-founders of the She Leads Africa publication! I decided it was time to switch up lanes and accelerate this process by making a client an offer they can’t refuse, reduced legal fees in exchange for an introduction to the co-founders.
In December, a few days after Christmas I emailed the co-founder with my spiel and she said yes! Then on the other side, I started my application for a Speakers Travel Grant (“STG”) which is one the perks for alumni of the MWF and I was like “Yassss, I am cruising!!”.
So how did I go from cruising to hitting a wall?

Over hustling

The quality of your hustle will determine the kind of results you achieve. Over-hustling is like over-revving the engine, its fun and creates noise but you actually aren’t going anywhere. I turned every trick in the hustler’s handbook! I am resourceful as heck and got some good results:
  • The event organizers invited me to the event as a speaker hosting a masterclass and sent me a Visa application letter.
  • The Southern Sun hotel in Ikoyi agreed to sponsor me with accommodation for the duration of my stay.
  • I was able to negotiate with customs officials to leave me 2 blank pages in my passport which is almost finished.
Some hustles fail:
  • When my STG application was bounced, I decided to send sponsorship requests to every single airline that flies out of OR Tambo and I put them on notice on Twitter. Putting companies on blast on Twitter only works when you can go viral. I had 11 retweets. No bueno.
  • I had 2 pages left in my passport! Travelling under those conditions is very difficult.

The contingency

I put a lot of my eggs in the STG basket instead of working on other leads that would lead me somewhere.
When the STG responded to me I had exactly 1 week to shoot a new shot, which led to the frantic ‘spray and pray’ approach with almost 15 airlines, rather than a targeted approach I had towards Southern Sun which led to success.

Counting the Cost

Applying for a visa generally takes 2 weeks, or it can be more but I decided to travel 9 days before I would need to apply for the visa which was really cutting it thin.
As I would be taking this trip during a work period, which is a time to make coin- I hadn’t set up coin generating targets for the trip- if anything I was going to spend time and money in non-income producing activities.
I didn’t account for the cost of time and the cost of money in undertaking this exercise from the beginning to the end. I believe in miracles, but God isn’t in the business of covering up for laziness and folly!

Know Your Audience

In applying for the STG I wasn’t able to show the people controlling the purse string what they wanted to see, which was a high impact business event that would change and improve my business in a measurable way.
They saw a one-day social event that happened under the guise of entrepreneurship and I was basically asking them to fund a weekend getaway!
On a side note: imagine how much fun it would have been to watch Black Panther in Lagos though!

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HIT A WALL

*Originally published in She Leads Africa

Earlier today I was minding my business and driving back home and just as I hit the turn to my place, I saw the rear end of Porsche Panamera 4 sticking out of my neighbor’s wall.
After I got over the initial shock, I was like “Yup, that’s an accurate depiction my life”.
Since 2009 I have dreamed of visiting Lagos, Nigeria and every year I passionately talk about it, to a point of breathlessness. In 2017 after I took part in the Mandela Washington Fellowship (“MWF”), my determination hit an all-time high as I got to meet some incredibly smart, fun, talented people from the rest of the continent and I added 10 more countries to my list places I wanted to visit.
In October 2017, I saw the She Leads Africa SLAY Festival would take place on 17 February 2018 in Lagos, Nigeria and I decided that “THIS IS IT”.
I sped off to write the event organizers and put myself up for any type of speaking opportunities that were available and was given the “thank you for getting in touch, we will get back to you.”
But they didn’t know who they were dealing with. I kept idling like a Porsche, waiting to make my move and then it happened!
As I was idle on Instagram I saw an insta-story of a friend/ client and he was with one of the co-founders of the She Leads Africa publication! I decided it was time to switch up lanes and accelerate this process by making a client an offer they can’t refuse, reduced legal fees in exchange for an introduction to the co-founders.
In December, a few days after Christmas I emailed the co-founder with my spiel and she said yes! Then on the other side, I started my application for a Speakers Travel Grant (“STG”) which is one the perks for alumni of the MWF and I was like “Yassss, I am cruising!!”.
So how did I go from cruising to hitting a wall?

Over hustling

The quality of your hustle will determine the kind of results you achieve. Over-hustling is like over-revving the engine, its fun and creates noise but you actually aren’t going anywhere. I turned every trick in the hustler’s handbook! I am resourceful as heck and got some good results:
  • The event organizers invited me to the event as a speaker hosting a masterclass and sent me a Visa application letter.
  • The Southern Sun hotel in Ikoyi agreed to sponsor me with accommodation for the duration of my stay.
  • I was able to negotiate with customs officials to leave me 2 blank pages in my passport which is almost finished.
Some hustles fail:
  • When my STG application was bounced, I decided to send sponsorship requests to every single airline that flies out of OR Tambo and I put them on notice on Twitter. Putting companies on blast on Twitter only works when you can go viral. I had 11 retweets. No bueno.
  • I had 2 pages left in my passport! Travelling under those conditions is very difficult.

The contingency

I put a lot of my eggs in the STG basket instead of working on other leads that would lead me somewhere.
When the STG responded to me I had exactly 1 week to shoot a new shot, which led to the frantic ‘spray and pray’ approach with almost 15 airlines, rather than a targeted approach I had towards Southern Sun which led to success.

Counting the Cost

Applying for a visa generally takes 2 weeks, or it can be more but I decided to travel 9 days before I would need to apply for the visa which was really cutting it thin.
As I would be taking this trip during a work period, which is a time to make coin- I hadn’t set up coin generating targets for the trip- if anything I was going to spend time and money in non-income producing activities.
I didn’t account for the cost of time and the cost of money in undertaking this exercise from the beginning to the end. I believe in miracles, but God isn’t in the business of covering up for laziness and folly!

Know Your Audience

In applying for the STG I wasn’t able to show the people controlling the purse string what they wanted to see, which was a high impact business event that would change and improve my business in a measurable way.
They saw a one-day social event that happened under the guise of entrepreneurship and I was basically asking them to fund a weekend getaway!
On a side note: imagine how much fun it would have been to watch Black Panther in Lagos though!

Creating Value

I was very excited to be part of the She Leads Africa SLAY Festival, but I hadn’t really thought of how I would use this platform to create value beyond the day. My talk I prepared was fantastic, but I was going to end up in a sea of speakers because I hadn’t really finessed my differentiator.
The same applies to my relationship with the hotel I should have stayed at. Beyond tweets and pictures, I hadn’t really thought of a way to add value to their brand in return for their hospitality.
After the Porsche hit that wall, it was pulled back and reversed onto a tow truck. In the same way, I need to reverse and get back to the drawing board.
The driver of the car will have to repair that wall, in the same way, I have to explain and apologize to the people who were expecting me.I have set a 3-month target to go to Lagos and this time it will be a beautiful, paced and thought-out journey!